Nepal ropes in Chinese telco to improve mobile connectivity in border villages
Plans are afoot to provide 4G in Chhangru and Byas and 3G services in Tinkar villages in Darchula district, said KB Gurung, a Nepal Telecom official.Updated: Jul 06, 2020 18:38 IST
The KP Oli-led Nepal government, whose ties with India has strained of late because of a border dispute in Uttarakhand, will install fourth-generation (4G) mobile telephony services in two villages on the Indo-Nepal open border within three months with the help of a Chinese telecommunication company in a bid to improve connectivity in the remote region, a Nepalese government official said.
Tek Singh Kunwar, assistant chief district officer (CDO) of Nepal’s Darchula district in the far western region, confirmed the bid to improve mobile telephony services in the border villages.
Plans are afoot to provide 4G in Chhangru and Byas and 3G services in Tinkar villages in Darchula district, said KB Gurung, a Nepal Telecom official.
“Mobile telephony services are being upgraded in the border villages, where connectivity is often an issue. Initial work started two weeks ago after officials did a feasibility study,” said KB Gurung, a Nepal Telecom (NT) official.
“Work has started to improve the mobile telephony connectivity in three border villages. Though there were mobile towers equipped with 3G connectivity in Chhangru and Byas villages, Tinkar had none,” said Gurung, who was part of the NT team that conducted the feasibility study.
“Chhangru and Vyas mobile subscribers can avail of 4G service soon. However, Tinkar will have the basic 3G service for now,” Gurung added.
Indian intelligence officials said Nepal is taking the help of a Chinese telecom giant to roll-out 4G services in the two border villages, raising alarm bells about national security and sovereignty amid the border stand-off.
In June, Nepal’s National Assembly, the Upper House of Nepalese Parliament, had unanimously passed a constituent amendment bill to update the Himalayan nation’s political and administrative map incorporating three Indian territories that fall in Uttarakhand while New Delhi’s objected to “untenable artificial enlargement” of Kathamandu’s territorial claims.
Earlier, Nepal’s House of Representatives, the Lower House of Nepalese Parliament, had also endorsed the new political and administrative map, incorporating these three Indian territories.
Gurung, however, downplayed the Chinese hand in the roll-out of 4G services.
“We can’t say it’s all Chinese because the components are from various countries, including China,” he said.
“It is the Nepalese authorities’ prerogative to opt for a Chinese company to upgrade their mobile telephony services in the border district,” said Amit Kumar Shukla, sub-divisional magistrate (SDM), Dharchula, Pithoragarh district.
In Dharchula, the district authorities are trying to overcome mobile telephony woes on the Indo-Nepal border areas. “We have provided 34 satellite phones to village heads in Dharchula to tackle the connectivity problem to some extent. However, the Centre’s permission is pending to instal permanent mobile towers in the area,” he added.
Indian mobile phone users in Uttarakhand’s remote Pithoragarh district use the pre-paid subscriber identification module (SIM) cards of Nepalese service providers for better connectivity for an estimated monthly cost between Rs 150 and Rs 200.